Ocean City 2018 Year In Review

Parades, festivals, car shows. Kites and planes flying high in the sky. Old buildings come down, new ones take their place. Parking meters, median fences, a new historic house tour, an entire Viking ship — the world’s largest — docked in our own backyard. An 83-pound fish worth millions of dollars and a curious cat who’s learning to surf. It’s all par for the course in Ocean City. 

We couldn’t welcome in the new year before we looked back on the old one, and of course, with all that goes on in this town, this review only scratches the surface of Ocean City in 2018. Feel free to add your own favorite moments and memories in the comments, as well as what you’re looking forward to most in 2019. Now let’s take a journey back to around this time last year…

January: Grayson takes the town by storm

Without fail, our first big snowstorm of the season almost always arrives in January, and the winter of 2018 was no exception. Blizzard conditions on the night of Wednesday, Jan. 3, transformed the Ocean City beach and Boardwalk into a scene out of a snowglobe. They called it a “bombogenesis,” an apocalyptic-sounding word for “midlatitude cyclone that gets really, really intense,” but at least the calm ocean and pretty pink sunset after the storm made for some ultra-picturesque winter wonderland shots. 

February: FeBREWary is celebrated by hundreds at Seacrets

It’s always one of the quieter months of the year, and probably the best time to see if you can make the oft-bragged about but rarely seen journey from North OC down to the Inlet without hitting a single red light along the way (that’s how us locals are left to entertain ourselves in the lonely winter months).

It’s not until the end of the month that the party really starts: Shore Craft Beer Fest: Love on Tap at Seacrets is all about celebrating the season of love, with the help of lots of local craft beer on tap and live music hyping up the crow of lovebirds in Morley Hall. A sold-out festival in recent years, Love on Tap 2018 saw about 850 attendees, all beer lovers ready to close out Maryland’s craft beer-centric month of FeBREWary with drinking, dancing, and the company of family and friends.

March: St. Patrick’s Day traditions march onward

It wasn’t necessarily the best day for a parade — the sky was overcast and February’s biting cold lingered longer than we would have liked — but there isn’t any kind of weather that can stop Ocean City’s St. Patrick’s Day crowd from dancing Irish jigs and getting into all kinds of shenanigans, all day (and night, and week) long. 

The annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade has been an Ocean City tradition since 1980. Bundled-up crowds line the sidewalks of Coastal Highway catching green beaded necklaces and collecting gold foil-covered chocolates for hours while floats, marching bands, and tricked-out cars slowly make their way to the 45th Street judging stands.

Also in March, movie lovers traveled from New York, Alabama, and even Great Britain to attend the 2nd annual Ocean City Film Festival. Back on the south end of town, Ocean City announced that new pay-by-plate parking meters would be installed by summer of 2018, garnering mixed reactions on social media.

April: OC prepares for another summer of fun

Easter fell on April 1, and after the early holiday weekend, it was all hands on deck to get Ocean City ready for the upcoming onslaught of summer visitors. The Commander broke out their giant beach chair, and it wasn’t long until the first signs of summer started appearing all up and down the Ocean City Boardwalk. We could hardly wait.

May: Visitors start Cruisin’ in

You know what May means: Spring weather starts breaking through the cracks in the ice after a winter that always feels longer than the last, and like newborn bunnies or shadowless groundhogs, or senior-weekers ready to wreak havoc upon the town after four unrelenting years of high school, Cruisers herald the start of the season in Ocean City. Thousands arrived to town in late May for Cruisin’ Ocean City, to drive their vintage vehicles down the Boardwalk or just sit back and enjoy the spectacle, before Ocean City’s real crowds arrived in the months to come.

Also in May, a two-mile median fence was installed, not without criticism, to prevent jaywalking on the highway from Convention Center Drive up to 62nd Street. As for relatively uncontroversial events, the Canadian Forces Snowbirds took to the sky and provided an early Air Show featurette, drawing excitement for the main show coming the next month.

June: Another Air Show weekend in the books

For the 11th year, all eyes were on the skies when the USAF Thunderbirds returned to town June 16 – 17. The Thunderbirds, along with Skytypers, Search and Rescue teams, a Joint Strike Fighter, Para-Commandos and more, awed onlookers down on the beach and Boardwalk during one of the busiest weekends of the year. 

Also in June, Mad Fish Bar & Grill opened its doors in West Ocean City, a local bartender was celebrated after retiring from four years of service at the Original Greene Turtle, and the highly-coveted first white marlin of the season was reeled in. The crew of the “Stalker” took home a total of $15,000 for the summer’s first white marlin catch-and-release.

July: White Marlin winner takes home $2.5 million

But the excitement surrounding the first white marlin of the season was small potatoes compared to the biggest white marlin of the season. In the 45th annual White Marlin Open, the largest billfish tournament in the world, international angler Pascual Jimenez won $2.58 million for his 83-pound catch. Gregory Giron, an angler who also reeled in an 83-pounder in the annual billfish tourney, brought home $130,000, the difference in prize money reflecting the different methods used to catch the fish (Giron’s was “gaffed,” stabbed and lifted into the boat). 

Also in July, the Ocean City Beach Patrol kept beachgoers safe as ever thanks to their diligence and the thorough training of OCBP guards. Assateague’s shoreline remained protected and healthy thanks to a coastal resiliency project, and another successful 4th of July came and went.

August: The Draken docks and Vikings take OC

People were really enamored with the Draken Harald Hårfagre, the largest Viking ship model in the world, which sailed from Norway to the East Coast of the U.S. over the summer and spent eight August days docked in Ocean City. Not only did the Draken see thousands of visitors during its visit, but the press release announcing the ship’s arrival was the most-shared post ever on OceanCity.com. We were pretty amazed by the reponse, which was overwhelmingly positive and excited. 

Also in August, Ocean City remembered Roland “Fish” Powell, the former Ocean City Mayor and City Council President, and the Convention Center’s namesake, who passed away on Aug. 29. An outbreak of sea lice had beachgoers temporarily afraid to go in the water, but there were ultimately no casualties. Trimper’s Amusements, the oldest operating family-owned amusement park in the world, celebrated its 125th anniversary. And the first-ever Art X festival brought handmade art, craft beer, and live music from The Original Wailers to Northside Park. 

September: The sun really shines at Sunfest

Ocean City’s 44th annual Sunfest celebrates the end of summer, 9/14/18. Photo from the adjoining annual Kite Fest.

If you’ve ever been to Sunfest, at least in recent years, you know that the sun rarely actually makes an appearance. It’s a sort of curse, and a joke amongst frequent festivalgoers — “Yeah, I’m going to Sunfest, better be sure to pack my umbrella.” Well, the sun did shine at 2018’s 45th annual Sunfest, if only for a few hours. Kites flew high over the beach, craft vendors bartered their jewelry, art, and other handmade goods, street fare was sold out of food trucks, and the sounds of live music filled the air all weekend long.

Also in September, Hurricane Florence threatened real devastation to the mid-Atlantic coast, but Maryland was ultimately safe, save a little light flooding. Ironweed Ale Werks made its debut among the Ocean City craft brewery lineup, and H2oi-ers predictably rolled into Ocean City despite the event’s official relocation to New Jersey.

October: The first historic house tour hits downtown

Local history buffs rejoiced when the Ocean City Life-Saving Station Museum hosted the first-ever Historic House Tour in downtown OC. Some of the oldest churches, homes, and Bed & Breakfasts in town opened their doors to visitors while guides at each location provided abridged versions of each building’s history, with each stop on the tour as educational as their homes are beautiful.

Also in October, O.C.toberfest festivities — the beach maze, the pet parade, the Shore Craft Beer Fest in Sunset Park — hit the town for another spooky season. We were sad to say one last goodbye to Planet Maze, the iconic outerspace-themed mini golf course and laser tag arena on 33rd Street. And at the end of the month, Maryland’s National Guard teamed up with local first responders to conduct “Operation Tourist Boom,” a routine emergency training exerercise, this one taking place at the Ocean City Inlet.

November: Farewell, Taylor House

Nothing lasts forever, and even stately examples of 19th Century Victorian architecture fall prey to the elements sometimes. Citing major structural deficiencies in the old building that once sat on the corner of Talbot Street and Baltimore Avenue, the one-time hotel was demolished by the end of the month. 

Also in November, Winterfest begins! Marking the beginning of the holiday season and, by its last weekend run, the end of another year, the 26th annual Winterfest of Lights proved to be bigger and brighter than ever. We also remembered Billy Thompson this month, the original owner of Billy’s Sub Shop, who passed away on Oct. 27. 

December: Comic Con sees a successful second year

The fairly new Ocean City Comic Con celebrated its second year, this time in the Convention Center, in order to hold all the large crowds, the many vendors, and the ample excitement that the now-annual culture convention brings. 

Also in December, the historic Lankford Hotel was marked for sale, and a popular Ocean City restaurant, Liquid Assets, still stands in North OC thanks to fire sprinklers and quick-thinking employees.

In our office, we were happy to celebrate the near-end of 2018 with a visit from Pip the Beach Cat, the tiny boogie-boarding kitten who’s taken Ocean City by storm. We’ve also been doing our own fair share of reflecting on the busy year that’s now almost behind us, as we start to relax just a little bit and take in all the beauty that surrounds us, but also prepare for the upcoming year that’ll surely be just as happily filled with events and festivals, new businesses, and old tried-and-true traditions as 2018 was. (I’m already putting together my annual ‘Looking Forward to the Next Year in Ocean City’ report and personally getting very excited for what’s to come.)

Our company was proud to take home the 2018 Small Business Award from the Maryland Tourism Coalition’s yearly Travel Summit, and on another personal level, I’m so grateful that I get to live and work in such a wonderful big-small town and share all my Ocean City adventures and discoveries with you. I’ve been in this job for a full year now and I feel like I’m still always finding something new to love (and share!) about OCMD. Thanks for following along with us. Here’s a virtual toast to 2019!

Kristin is a writer and photographer in Ocean City, Maryland, and is the content manager for OceanCity.com and other State Ventures, LLC sites. She loves getting reader-submitted stories and photos, so send her an email anytime. She also works part-time at the Art League of Ocean City and the Ocean City Film Festival and lives just off the peninsula with her dog and fiancé. Her photos can be found on Instagram @oc_kristin.

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